COLUMBIA – John Strickland is one step closer toward completing a faith journey that began almost 20 years ago.
“It started a long time ago but I’m just now getting around to it,” said Strickland, a parishioner at St. Anne in Florence. “I’ve had a good support system along the way.”
Strickland was one of 440 people in South Carolina to take part in the Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion, held on the first Sunday of Lent and celebrated in four separate locations within the diocese. The 2018 rites took place at Our Lady of the Rosary in Greenville on Feb. 16; St. Peter in Columbia on Feb. 17; the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Charleston on Feb. 18 and St. Michael the Archangel Church in Murrells Inlet on Feb. 19.
In South Carolina, 151 catechumens and 289 candidates are seeking entry into the Church this Easter, according to Michael Martocchio, director of the diocesan Office of Catechesis and Christian Initiation.
During the rite, catechumens, those not previously baptized in a Christian faith, publicly state before the bishop their intent to join the Catholic Church. Their names are recorded in a book and they become the “elect” for the remainder of Lent.
Catechumens receive the sacraments of baptism, Holy Communion and confirmation at the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday and are fully initiated into the Church. Candidates, those who have been baptized in another Christian faith, receive a blessing and confirmation into the Church.
Strickland, a catechumen who participated in the rite at St. Peter, said his road to initiation began in the military as a 19-year-old undergoing infantry training at Fort Benning, Ga.
“I never really had any faith or spiritual guidance before then,” Strickland said. “(Fort Benning) didn’t have any Protestant services and the drill sergeant said the only thing we’ve got is Mass, so that’s where we all went.”
After one extraordinary form Mass at Fort Benning, Strickland said his mind was made up.
“It was so beautiful, just like today,” Strickland said. “I just felt something come over me, that feeling of peace washing over me. I felt like I couldn’t get through this training and serve my country without it.”
Immediately following his first Mass, Strickland approached the priest and asked how he could become a Catholic. Because he was already in the middle of infantry training, the priest suggested he wait until he was assigned to his unit before undergoing the process.
“Well, when I got to my unit, (Sept. 11, 2001) happened,” Strickland recalled. “There was chaos everywhere. But a lot of my buddies were Catholic, so somehow, we got through it together.”
Strickland’s quest to join the Church was put off for several years. Following his military service, but his faith was rejuvenated after a visit to St. Anne for the Solemnity of Mary feast day.
“I wasn’t living right, so I decided to start going to church at St. Anne,” Strickland said. “I wasn’t going to any other kind of church. I just wanted to go to a Catholic church because of my experiences way back in the military. The Church has been really good to me.”
By Chip Lupo | Special to The Miscellany
Feature image: Miscellany/Doug Deas: A young woman writes her name into the Book of the Elect at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist indicating her willingness for full incorporation into the Church.
St. Peter, Columbia: Feb. 17
Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, Charleston: Feb. 18
St. Michael, Murrells Inlet: Feb. 19